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The current conflict in Ukraine began on 24 February 2022 when Russian military forces entered the country from Belarus, Russia and Crimea.

Prior to the invasion, there had already been eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian Government forces and Russia-backed separatists.

This reading list provides links to Commons Library papers, Committee reports, parliamentary material and UK Government press releases related to the conflict in Ukraine since 2014.

The 2014 Euromaidan protests

In November 2013, the Ukrainian Government of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign a planned Association Agreement with the European Union and demonstrations ensued in the capital Kyiv. These ‘Euromaidan’ demonstrations turned violent in early 2014 and, in February that year, some European foreign ministers mediated a compromise, involving a unity government and early elections.

After the collapse of a power-sharing agreement on 22 February 2014, President Yanukovych disappeared from Ukraine and a new government was installed by the Ukrainian parliament.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, 2014

Toward the end of February 2014, unidentified military figures, later confirmed to be Russian personnel, surrounded the airports in Crimea, a majority-Russian peninsula in Ukraine. The Crimean autonomous assembly was then seized by pro-Russian forces.

In March 2014 the assembly issued a declaration of independence and a subsequent referendum on union with Russia was held. According to Russian election officials, 95.5% of voters supported union with Russia. The results of that referendum are not internationally recognised.

Since then, Russia has maintained its control over Crimea and supported pro-Russian separatist forces who also took control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine (the Donbas) in 2014.

Fighting between Russian-supported separatists and Ukrainian government forces has continued in the Donbas for the last eight years despite the negotiation of the Minsk Agreements in 2014/2015 which called for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all foreign armed groups and constitutional reform recognising the special status of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Current conflict

Full-scale invasion of Ukraine

On 24 February 2022 Russia launched military action in Ukraine, with forces crossing into the country from Belarus in the north, Russia in the east and Crimea in the south.

President Putin said it was a “special military operation” intended to protect the people of the Donbas and to “demilitarise and denazify Ukraine”. He denied that Russia planned to occupy Ukrainian territory or to “impose anything on anyone by force”.

For the last year Russian forces have, however, been conducting a full-scale assault on the country.

Initial Ukrainian counteroffensive

Over the course of 2002, Ukraine, with Western military assistance, conducted a major counteroffensive. Ukrainian forces liberated significant territory in the northeast and east of the country. In the south, Ukrainian forces retook key towns and villages in Kherson, north of the Dnipro River. 

Further annexation in eastern Ukraine

In early October 2022 Russia signed annexation treaties recognising Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as part of the Russian Federation, even though those regions are not totally under Russian control.

Ukraine counteroffensive – 2023

Ukraine has vowed to retake all its sovereign territory, including Crimea which was annexed by Russia in 2014. The Kremlin has said that the annexed regions will be with Russia forever. With both sides continuing to call for a decisive victory, there currently appears little appetite for compromise or peace.

Since the end of 2022 Ukraine has been preparing for a new counteroffensive. Western military assistance to Ukraine has been stepped up. The aim of that assistance is to help Ukraine both defend its sovereign territory, assist its counteroffensive and to reclaim the territory under Russian occupation that is within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders.

After months of speculation, Ukrainian counteroffensive operations began at  the beginning of June 2023.

Ukrainian forces have been conducting offensive operations in the east and south of the country in an attempt to re-take territory currently under Russian control in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts. Assessments of recaptured territory vary, but Ukraine is thought to have taken back 50% of the land initially seized by Russia.

Russian forces are, however, deeply entrenched in their positions, particularly to the south of the Dnipro River in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts making progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive difficult and slow.

This paper will be regularly updated. 

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